Food marketers vigorously touting their anti-obesity efforts over the last five years or so are sending a mixed message to kids by urging them to slim down on fattening products, according to a report published this week.
The Journal of the American Medical Association piece questions whether food companies can be trusted to fight childhood obesity when they are apparently working both sides of the problem.
Widely quoted pediatrician David Ludwig and NYU professor Marion Nestle question industry research on obesity and contend that junk food makers spend billions advertising to kids and donate large sums to professional nutrition groups which produce favorable research on obesity.
US News & World Report picked up their findings and, with the two authors, put together a top 10 list of “things food makers don’t want you to know about their products and how they promote them.”
The magazine wonders if PepsiCo’s four-year-old “Smart Spot” campaign, which highlights healthier products and includes foods like Diet Pepsi, Cap’n Crunch Cereal and Cheetos, is just a marketing ploy. [PepsiCo’s PR director said: " We're not trying to tell people that a bag of Doritos is healthier than asparagus. But, if you're buying chips, and you're busy, and you don't have a lot of time to read every part of the label, it's an easy way to make a smarter choice."]
The authors also find an apparent contradiction as companies like Coca-Cola, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and Wendy's, which say they are fighting obesity, also back a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom, which lobbies aggressively against obesity-related public health campaigns. The CCF also has an extensive bio of Marion Nestle on its site, calling the nutrition professor “one of the country’s most hysterical anti-food-industry fanatics.”